After almost 90-minutes of deliberations, a four-woman, eight-man jury found defendant Larry Warren guilty of murder for the 2010 shooting death of another local man on Friday at the Anderson County Courthouse.
Warren, 38, was charged with murder in the death of Jacob Kennedy at a residence in the 100 block of CR 1121, just south of Elkhart.
According to testimony presented during the four-day trial, Warren shot Kennedy in the head with a .22-caliber rifle outside the residence sometime around 1 a.m. on Aug. 29, 2010, during a dispute taking place at a gathering there.
After hearing testimony from medical examiner Dr. John Stash and from Texas Ranger Rudy Flores on Friday morning, the state rested its case at about noon. The defense, who did not present any witnesses, subsequently rested its case as well.
Closing arguments kicked off the afternoon hours of the trial, with the jury entering into deliberations at about 4:15 p.m. and concluding at about 5:55 p.m.
The state, represented by Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe and Assistant DA Scott Holden, founded their case on Kennedy being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a victim of mistaken identity by Warren.
“Audrey (Clark, Warren’s common-law wife) arrives on the scene with another man (Billy Lewis), and someone told Warren that she was with someone else,” Holden said in closing arguments. “She was getting ‘beat down’, but he was mad at her and didn’t care.
“Instead he gets back in his truck and does a u-turn on the street.”
Kennedy, Holden speculated, was heading back to the house after chasing Lewis, who fled the scene almost immediately after arriving with Clark.
“Warren sees Kennedy walking in his headlights,” Holden said. “Kennedy was headed back to the house — he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Kennedy probably saw the gun, he ran for his life and he was shot from behind,” Holden continued. “He turns around and takes a second shot in the head, killing him instantly.
“He took Jake Kennedy’s life,” he said, pointing at Warren. “Kennedy paid with his life. The defendant is guilty.”
Palestine attorney Mark Cargill, representing the defense, shared a different perspective of the event surrounding Kennedy’s death — referencing a drug deal gone bad, as Clark had previously testified, and bias by investigators toward Warren.
“In regards to the 911 calls, listen to them,” he said. “Larry Warren was the actor, he was made a suspect right off the bat.
“You could tell they had a target,” he added, referring to law enforcement investigators work on the case. “It is not hard to find certain facts to lead to a conclusion. They were trying to make evidence fit a crime.”
Clark, Cargill reported, was the only witness to testify to a drug deal taking place at the gathering.
“When Clark arrived on the scene, Debra Plummer sent her daughter in — she knew something was going down,” he said. “Another witness said that the mood was dampened because Audrey was not there yet.
“Why else would that be the case unless they were there to get drugs,” he continued. “And after Audrey went to Walmart, she went to see her drug dealer.”
Lewis, Cargill speculated, was not with Clark to get her kids, he was there to get drugs.
“And why would Debra Plummer and Jake Kennedy run after Lewis,” he asked. “Because they think Lewis might have the drugs.
“Warren’s wife was there, there were drugs going down and his kids were there,” he continued. “Larry just wanted to get his wife away from drugs and protect his children.”
During the state rebuttal, Lowe pointed out the “holes” in Cargill’s theory, reminding the jury of testimony that Debra Plummer testified to passing a hair follicle test for drugs by CPS.
“We know that, because she got her kids back,” he said. “And the only person who said there was a dope deal was Audrey Clark and she lied to the grand jury.
“Would a person really spend all their money at Walmart knowing what might happen if she didn’t’ show up with the right amount of drugs?”
Lowe pointed out that the 14-year off-and-on relationship between Clark and Warren was one marred by “serious problems.”
“He is a felon, she has a drug problem, he has a family violence charge,” Lowe said. “Larry thinks they are married and she doesn’t, she had a child by another man, and there had been a custody battle over the kids.
“Clark said Larry was very jealous and had anger issues,” he continued. “Warren’s blood alcohol level was .099, he was illegally possessing a gun and had lots of bullets.
“All of those factors, plus the presence of another man — all of that equals murder.”
The date of Warren’s sentencing is set to take place sometime in July, as the defense has asked to bring in expert testimony regarding sudden passion prior to the judge’s decision.
349th State District Judge Pam Foster Fletcher presided over the trial.
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org